When I think to myself, “The world would be better a place if it did ____ more,” I wonder whether that action would actually make the world a better place or if it’s just a selfish desire for the world to do what I already do (and thus recognize and validate my action).
For example, I keep thinking that the world would be a better place if people created more art — if we drew more sketches, sculpted more sculptures, painted more paintings, crafted more pottery, wrote more poems, and so on. It’s a bold statement — and a romantic one — but, again, would that actually make the world a better place, or is the idea lead by a selfish motive, a reflection of my vanity?
A dear friend had this to say about my musing, which I think is worth mentioning:
“Are you assuming that being led by a selfish motive and making the world a better place are mutually exclusive?”
My response is that, no, I agree that they aren’t mutually exclusive. I used the example of “creating more art” to show what I meant about how often it seems that the idea of improving the world and the things that one does (or I do, in this case) tend to be intertwined. Can it be positive? Yeah, I think so. If someone who is a Doctor Without Borders says, “You know, if people volunteered more and helped those who were less fortunate more often, the world would be a better place,” I think we would agree with her.
But the ideas that come up when it comes to making the world a better place aren’t as black and white as that one. Take “creating more art,” for example. Does it really make the world a better place? What kind of data or facts am I going off of to believe that it would make the world a better place? Am I simply taking the anecdotal evidence that some people find my writing pleasant and applying it to extrapolate its correlation to the world being a better place? If me making art (i.e. writing) makes people happy, does it necessitate that others making art, too, makes people happy? Perhaps so, and perhaps not. Regardless, it’s not very easy to say, and it makes it even more egregious to assume that “more people creating more art = better world.”
It’s a roundabout way of saying that the big things I want to believe in — the big things I want to discover! — aren’t always easy to believe in, and I have to think about whether I am arriving there through an unbiased collection of facts or I’m picking-and-choosing the facts I come across to suit a belief I desperately hold.